Why the Latin Mass?
By the Rector of St. Gianna's Oratory and from the blog, http://acatholicrose.tumblr.com/
Why do we use Latin, why is the Mass in Latin? Why do we celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite?
Latin is a powerful language which lets the Catholic Church express clearly and precisely the doctrines of our Faith. The Latin language is a tool, shaped by the Church over the centuries, to pass on the faith in its integrity over time. It is a language which lets us express our faith with a timeless beauty.
This language does not belong to any specific nation and cannot be exploited by nationalism. This language lifts our hearts beyond borders, races, times and social or political classes and lets us pray together and experience the universal character of the Catholic Church which is the universal harbor of salvation, the only true religion and Christ’s only family on earth, the only Kingdom of God in this world.
As the Catholic Church is a perfect supernatural society, founded by the God-Man Jesus Christ, it is most fitting that it has its own language and that its members are familiar with its language so that they can actually pray together with each other and with the Sovereign Pontiff in Rome who is the visible head of this unity. Jesus spoke Latin and the inscription INRI on the Cross was in Latin (Iesus Nazareus Rex Iudeorum / Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews). Latin is the origin of many languages like Italian, Spanish and French and has considerably influenced the English language. Latin helps us to understand the origin and meaning of many English words.
The love for the Traditional Latin Liturgy is not a question of sentimentalism or nostalgia but a result of our love for the Catholic Faith which is so well, rich, deep, and beautifully expressed by this extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. As Pope Pius XII wrote in his Encyclical “Mediator Dei”, there is a deep link between Faith and Worship: We pray as we believe and we believe as we pray. Pope Benedict XVI wants us to rediscover this rich liturgical heritage of our Faith which has formed the hearts and minds of so many saints over the centuries.
Today we witness -according to Pope Benedict XVI- an eclipse of God in the life of most people and thus in the life of society. In the United States only about 25% of Catholics attend Mass on Sundays, which means that 75% disregard the Third Commandment of the Decalogue, that we sanctify the Day of the Lord. In France, for instance, 94.5% of the Catholics of this country disregard attending Mass on Sundays. The ignorance of our Faith is even more alarming! We live in a world that needs God, we live in a world that needs saints, many saints and many holy priests, religious and bishops, pro-life politicians and families.
We believe that the Traditional Latin Mass, which has sanctified, charmed, strengthened and educated generations for centuries since early Christianity, is an important part of this new Evangelization for which Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI call us. The Second Vatican Council quoted solemnly the words of Pope Pius XII in the Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy “Sacrosanctum Concilium” that the Liturgy is the center and summit of the life of the Church. If this is the case, and we believe it firmly, then the resurgence of the Catholic Church will come mainly through the Liturgy and our participation in it, in Faith, Humility and Adoration. The liturgy needs to be celebrated with reverence because of its tremendous sacred character. It needs to be beautiful because the Mysteries of our Faith which we celebrate are most beautiful and awesome. It needs to be of doctrinal depth as God has revealed Himself to us in the profoundness of His Divine Mysteries!
The practice of Ecumenism should not become a pretext to empty or minimize the Catholic Liturgy and to disguise the sacrificial character of Holy Mass. The Ecumenical dialog and especially Catholic catechism and missionary efforts should help to spread and foster Catholic teachings on the sacrificial nature of Holy Mass and of the ministerial priesthood.
As Rector of St. Gianna Oratory I am very glad about the growing number of young families and faithful of all ages who are rediscovering the Roman Liturgy in all its fullness and are reinvigorated in the practice of their Faith. They love the Latin which they slowly learn to understand and which lets them experience the Universality of the Catholic Church beyond nations, language barriers and time. They know themselves to be close to the Pope who himself prays much in Latin, and invites all to join him when he prays on our behalf to the Lord.
Also at the Parish Masses in English and Spanish we have many faithful who welcome Latin during the celebration of the Eucharist and who appreciate and enjoy spiritually the heritage of Latin hymns and chants together with the English and Spanish hymnals.
Latin unites us, Latin lets us pray together, Latin points to the origin of our Faith in Jesus Christ, Latin points to the Sovereign Pontiff in Rome who is the visible representative of Christ on earth. Latin is the best protection against Christian nationalism expressed in attempts to establish an American Church, a German Church, a French Church, a Spanish or Mexican Church, etc. We are all Catholic and the use of Latin in the Liturgy continuously reminds us of this and fosters this triple unity which we have and enjoy as Catholics, a unity of Faith, Sacraments and Government. The liturgical use of Latin glorifies and praises God Who invested the Catholic Church with this unity and Who wants to be adored and worshipped in the true Faith.
The Holy Spirit has given us, through the Papacy and the Bishops, the Catholic Liturgy in its divers forms in the Catholic Occident and Orient, for the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, for the profession of our Faith and to praise Him by the recitation of the Divine Office/ Liturgy of the Hours according to His Will: “ Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” The Catholic Liturgy is the fruit of the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Catholic Church over the centuries. It is a masterpiece of faith, art and culture and as such it is the setting for the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, just as a beautiful gold ring is a most fitting setting for the most precious diamond. The diamond of Christ’s sacrifice needs the setting of the sacred Catholic Liturgy! The Holy Ghost has brought it forth through holy Popes and Bishops in the history of the Church and this liturgy has matured over the centuries along with a growing understanding of the Eucharistic faith.